House GOP Lofts a Two-year Budget Deal

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A two-year budget deal announced late Monday would increase spending for defense and other programs. The budget bill, filed just before midnight Monday, provides an additional $80 billion over the next two years, split evenly between defense and other discretionary programs. The bill also raises the debt ceiling until March 2017. The House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, just before House Speaker John Boehner resigns at the end of this week. [Washington Post]

The House also took a step towards reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank Monday evening. A preliminary vote on the petition to bring the reauthorization bill to the House floor passed 246–177, setting up a final vote on the bill itself Tuesday. Supporters of the bank used a rare procedure called a discharge petition to bring the bill to the House floor. Even if the bill passes the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not bring up a standalone reauthorization bill there, although similar language was included as part of a transportation bill the Senate approved earlier this year. [POLITICO]


 

gemini_ram_auction

Expensive Memory

For $1,800, you can buy many terabytes of hard disk space — or half a kilobyte of RAM that flew in space fifty years ago. A “memory plane” from the computer on the Gemini 3 spacecraft is up for auction, with bids expected to reach at least $1,800. The chip, measuring more than 10 centimeters on a side, contains just 512 bytes of memory, but was a major milestone in the use of computers on human spaceflight missions when it helped run the Gemini 3 spacecraft on its 1965 flight. “This single chip is bigger than most smartphones, while most smartphones have millions of times its data storage capability,” said Michael Riley of Heritage Auctions, which is auctioning the memory chip. [Fortune]

 


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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is considering working with companies operating Earth imaging smallsats. In a strategy document released Monday, NGA said it was evaluating a variety of approaches to working with companies like Skybox Imgaing, Planet Labs and BlackSky Global, who are developing constellations of smallsats for commercial Earth imaging applications. NGA may award initial contracts with companies like them as soon as 2017, but those efforts would not affect its current EnhancedView contract with DigitalGlobe. [SpaceNews]

China launched a mapping satellite Monday. The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 3:10 a.m. Eastern time Monday and placed the Tianhui 1C into a sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite is the third in a series of medium-resolution Earth imaging satellites used primarily for mapping. [Spaceflight Now]

The launch of a Russian cargo spacecraft has been postponed a month. Vladimir Solntsev, president of RSC Energia, said Tuesday that the launch of the first Progress-MS vehicle, an upgraded version of Progress-M cargo spacecraft, will slip from Nov. 21 to Dec. 21. Solntsev said the delay was required to complete work to correct problems from a failed Progress launch in April. That launch, like the upcoming Progress launch, use Soyuz-2 rockets, while two Progress missions since the failure used older Soyuz-U rockets. [TASS]


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A Texas congressman said he will “vigorously enforce” restrictions on U.S. cooperation with China in space. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, said his committee has not been briefed by NASA about its role in meetings between State Department officials and Chinese counterparts earlier this year in the first U.S.-China Civil Space Dialogue. Culberson’s predecessor as subcommittee chairman, Frank Wolf, first included restrictions on bilateral cooperation between NASA and Chinese organizations several years ago in appropriations bills. [SpacePolicyOnline]

Aerojet Rocketdyne is still confident it can develop a new engine for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle. Company officials said Monday they believe they can convince ULA their AR-1 engine is a better choice for Vulcan than Blue Origin’s BE-4, based on their past experience in engine development. ULA has said that its preferred choice is the BE-4, but will not make a final decision on what engine will power the Vulcan’s first stage until next year. [Washington Post]

The Orion spacecraft has passed most of its critical design review (CDR). Lockheed Martin, the Orion prime contractor, said it was proceeding with full-scale assembly and testing of the Orion spacecraft that will fly on the first Space Launch System mission in 2018 after completing most elements of the CDR. That review, though, will not be formally complete until a separate CDR of the spacecraft’s service module, being developed by ESA, and a final briefing to a NASA committee in the spring of next year. Lockheed is already assembling the pressure vessel for the Orion crew module, and will ship it to the Kennedy Space Center for further assembly and testing next year. [SpaceNews]

Cassini will fly through the icy plume ejected from one of Saturn’s moons Wednesday. Cassini will pass 50 kilometers from the surface of Enceladus on a trajectory that should take it through a plume of material emitted from the moon’s south polar regions. Scientists hope to use the flyby to learn more about the moon’s subsurface ocean of liquid water, which may contain organic compounds and heat sources that could make it habitable. [SPACE.com]

Space Systems/Loral (SSL) is taking part in one of the mission concepts selected for NASA’s Discovery program. SSL would provide one of its 1300-series satellite buses and an electric propulsion system for Psyche, a mission that would visit the metallic asteroid of the same name. Psyche was one of five mission concepts NASA selected for additional study last month, with a final decision expected next September. This mission is the first time that SSL, which primarily builds commercial spacecraft, will be the primary industrial partner for a NASA Discovery-class mission. [SpaceNews]

Constellations of low Earth orbit communications satellite could inadvertently interfere with geostationary orbit satellites. Industry officials said at a recent symposium that LEO constellations could comply with existing rules about power levels and still interfere with a new generation of high-throughput satellites in GEO that are more sensitive than those in service when the rules were developed 15 years ago. Officials, though, said they were not pushing for the International Telecommunication Union or other regulatory bodies to take steps now to address any potential future interference. [SpaceNews]

The International Space Station is home to microbes that could pose hazards to crews living there. Researchers analyzed dust in equipment returned from the station, and compared it to air filters used in clean rooms on Earth. The air on the station had considerably more microbes than the clean rooms, including types of bacteria that are “opportunistic pathogens,” although nothing that was clearly a hazard to people living there. [Science]